St. Louis Cardinals Top 34 Prospects by Eric Longenhagen July 1, 2022 © Andrew Jansen/News-Leader / USA TODAY NETWORK Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the St. Louis Cardinals. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers. A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here. All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 2022 2021 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Cardinals Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Jordan Walker 20.1 AA 3B 2024 60 2 Iván Herrera 22.1 MLB C 2023 50 3 Nolan Gorman 22.1 MLB 3B 2022 50 4 Matthew Liberatore 22.7 MLB SP 2022 50 5 Masyn Winn 20.3 AA SS 2025 50 6 Gordon Graceffo 22.3 AA SP 2023 50 7 Brendan Donovan 25.5 MLB 2B 2022 45 8 Tink Hence 19.9 A SP 2025 40+ 9 Zack Thompson 24.7 MLB SP 2022 40+ 10 Alec Burleson 23.6 AAA RF 2024 40+ 11 Andre Pallante 23.8 MLB MIRP 2023 40+ 12 Michael McGreevy 22.0 AA SP 2025 40+ 13 Jonathan Mejia 17.2 R SS 2027 40+ 14 Juan Yepez 24.4 MLB LF 2022 40 15 Austin Love 23.4 A+ SP 2025 40 16 Ian Bedell 22.8 A+ SP 2023 40 17 Leonardo Bernal 18.4 A C 2025 40 18 Freddy Pacheco 24.2 AAA SIRP 2023 40 19 Lizandro Espinoza 19.6 R SS 2025 40 20 Malcom Nunez 21.3 AA DH 2024 40 21 Joshua Baez 19.0 A RF 2026 40 22 Packy Naughton 26.2 MLB MIRP 2022 40 23 Inohan Paniagua 22.4 A SP 2024 40 24 Jake Walsh 26.9 MLB SIRP 2022 35+ 25 Gustavo J. Rodriguez 21.5 A SIRP 2024 35+ 26 Won-Bin Cho 18.9 R LF 2027 35+ 27 Ryan Loutos 23.4 AA SIRP 2023 35+ 28 Cory Thompson 27.8 AA SIRP 2023 35+ 29 Moisés Gómez 23.8 AAA RF 2023 35+ 30 Chandler Redmond 25.5 AA 1B 2023 35+ 31 Nathanael Heredia 21.8 A+ SIRP 2024 35+ 32 Edwin Nunez 20.7 A SIRP 2025 35+ 33 Randel Clemente 20.6 R SIRP 2026 35+ 34 Alec Willis 19.3 R SP 2026 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C 1B 2B SS 3B LF RF SP SIRP MIRP 60 FV Prospects 1. Jordan Walker, 3B Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Decatur HS (GA) (STL) Age 20.1 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/50 70/80 50/80 50/40 50/55 55 Walker worked out as a pitcher, shortstop, and third baseman in high school, then had a rough draft spring amid some weight gain, which is part of why he fell deep into the first round. To say he looks like a steal is at this point a drastic understatement, as he is one of the most exciting young hitters in the minors, with elite power potential and superlative on-paper performance at Double-A while he’s still not old enough to have a beer. Any discussion of Walker begins with his exit velocities, which are nearly unheard of for a player this young. He has a simple, well-leveraged swing that takes advantage of his strength, and the long levers that come with his 6-foot-5, 220 pound frame produce jaw-dropping home runs when he really squares one up. His approach is solid, though there are some issues chasing breaking balls, and his in-zone swing-and-miss has been a fair bit below average in 2022 (he swings inside a lot of sliders), but we’re talking about a 20-year-old at Double-A here. If you’re looking for the prospect most likely to hit 40 home runs in a season down the line, this is your player. On defense, Walker’s ability to bend and get deep into his legs, as well as his lateral agility and range, is incredible for a player his size. There have been some instances this year where he’s backhanded a grounder deep near the third base line and fired a rocket over to first base, but most of his routine throws are casual lobs over to first. There are some scouts who have seen nothing but this type of throw from Walker for entire series, and leaving them with questions about whether he can play third base, but there are still flashes of a plus arm on occasion. Of course, Nolan Arenado‘s presence through 2027 might dictate a move to first regardless of how Walker looks over there. His 40-man timeline presents the Cardinals with a likely seamless transition from MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt to Walker if they so choose, with Walker possibly DH’ing most days during Goldy’s contract year. Even if he plays nothing but first base from the jump, Walker will still produce enough power to be a consistent 3 WAR All-Star, and there’s superlative thump here even at that position. 50 FV Prospects 2. Iván Herrera, C Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Panama (STL) Age 22.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/60 50/50 40/45 50/40 40/50 60 Herrera’s bat-to-ball track record would be exciting regardless of what position he played, but it’s rare for a catcher to be as deft with the barrel as he is, and it’s the chief reason that he projects as St. Louis’ heir apparent to Yadier Molina. While Herrera’s hitting posture can get a little too upright and cause him to pull off of sliders away from him, including ones that finish in the zone, he is adept at making contact basically everywhere else, especially at the top of the strike zone. Herrera is also capable of doing all-fields damage when he gets extended on pitches on the outer third, and the hit/power combination here could make him one of the top 10 (or so) hitting catchers in the entire league. He also has uncommon athleticism for a catcher and generates home-to-first times close to 4.3 seconds at his fastest. Indeed, Herrera would just be a 55 FV prospect were he a better defender. Even as he’s improved his receiving (average) and framing (below-average, at least to my eye, especially at the bottom of the zone), they’re still not great, and his ball-blocking is even further behind and at times is a real problem. Things aren’t so bad back there that Herrera will have to move to first base, but even though he’s kissed the big leagues, he does need polish. He’s only 22 and is now Molina’s squire, so those issues should improve at least a little bit. Very likely to be a good everyday player, the strides Herrera can make on defense will determine just how good. 3. Nolan Gorman, 3B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from O’Connor HS (AZ) (STL) Age 22.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 65/70 50/60 40/40 30/40 45 Gorman had another good season in 2021, slashing .279/.333/.481 combined between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis, mostly at the latter. It was the first time that he hadn’t experienced a whiff-prone adjustment period upon promotion, and his K% was lower last season than in any year since he was in rookie ball. He began 2022 on an epic heater, clubbing 15 homers in a little over a month at Triple-A Memphis even though his strikeout rate exploded. Up in St. Louis for the last couple of weeks, he has hit for power while producing a lower OBP. Thick and physical, Gorman has comfortably plus raw power at age 22, though his body is maxed out and I’d be surprised if there was another grade left in the tank even though he is so young. While he’s had issues getting on top of fastballs at the top of the zone, there’s enough playable power here that Gorman should produce like a heart-of-the-order thumper. The presence of Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt on the infield corners means Gorman is being shoehorned in at second base, where he isn’t very good; his range, hands, and actions around the bag are all below average. He can make routine plays, though, and the Cardinals would be justified in running him out there situationally, even knowing that he’s a 30-grade defender at the position. If he played there every day, he’d produce like a left-handed Dan Uggla. Gorman is a fringe defender at third and would probably be an average defender at first base with time. That versatility will enable him to shuffle around with Tommy Edman and Edmundo Sosa the same way Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong did, getting Gorman’s bat in the lineup most of the time and taking him off the field to prioritize defense late in games. While flawed, Gorman should get to most of his impact power in games and share time at several infield positions, including one up the middle of the diamond, which will enable him to produce like a good everyday big leaguer. 4. Matthew Liberatore, SP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Mountain Ridge HS (AZ) (TBR) Age 22.7 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 50/55 60/60 45/55 55/70 92-95 / 97 Liberatore tracked through the minors without experiencing so much as a developmental hiccup, and in fact, he’s accumulated much more big game experience than all but a few pitchers his age. Last year, he struck out a batter per inning as a 21-year-old who spent the entire season at Triple-A Memphis, started the Futures Game for the National League, and pitched for Team USA in the Olympics. Libby has done all of this amid a shift in his pitch usage. The slider that he learned on the fly as a high school senior might eventually be his most consistent, finishing pitch, and the sinking/tailing fastball shape that seemed like it might hamper his heater’s effectiveness has actually helped set up his changeup, which Liberatore has tremendous feel for locating, especially for a pitcher his age. The gorgeous, high-arcing curveball that made us all swoon while he was an amateur was used less often early in 2022, perhaps as a developmental measure, but as Liberatore was needed at the big league level, he returned to leaning on it. In addition to having enough depth to miss its fair share of bats, the curveball is useful as a way for him to get back into counts, or as a show-me pitch the second or third time through the order. But it’s very slow (73 mph on average) and easy to identify out of his hand, which is why I think the slider might eventually be his two-strike finishing pitch of choice. Libby’s four-pitch package is seasoned with all sorts of crafty, Cueto-esque delivery variations that disrupt hitters’ timing and keep them off of stuff that is more well-rounded than it is dominant. He projects as a mid-rotation starter on a playoff team, he’ll likely pitch in the big leagues for a very long time, and the long-term ceiling on his command is huge since we’re talking about a 22-year-old who already has great feel to pitch. 5. Masyn Winn, SS Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Kingwood HS (TX) (STL) Age 20.3 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 45/55 30/50 60/60 40/50 80 While focusing solely on shortstop, Winn (who was a two-way amateur with huge arm strength) dominated High-A for the first month of 2022 and was given a quick promotion to Double-A Springfield, where he continued to rake on the surface. While Winn’s underlying metrics indicate his power output in 2022 has to this point been a mirage, his bat-to-ball skills are advanced, especially for a prospect who was a two-way player not long ago, and who is only 20 and already in the upper levels. His contact rates (in the zone and overall) have been better than the big league average this year and have taken a bit of a leap since 2021. There’s big bat speed and rotational athleticism here, and you can project a little more on Winn’s power output even though he’s already a muscular, tightly wound 20-year-old who doesn’t have a long, projectable frame. While adept at putting the bat on letter-high fastballs, Winn currently struggles to pull ones that have real big league velocity. Fastballs he’s pulled in the air since arriving at Double-A have averaged only 90 mph, while per Synergy Sports, his opposite-field liners and fly balls have come against fastballs averaging 93 mph. Purely based on where his skills and tools are at this moment, Winn isn’t a 50 FV prospect in the same way that most other upper-level prospects are. Instead, he’s more of a high-variance, high-ceiling type with some freaky tools and an impressive early-career track record for someone who was not unanimously considered a hitter as a high school prospect. 6. Gordon Graceffo, SP Drafted: 5th Round, 2021 from Villanova (STL) Age 22.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/55 55/60 55/55 55/55 50/55 93-97 / 99 Graceffo began to throw harder almost immediately after the Cardinals drafted him, throwing about two ticks harder at Low-A in 2021 than he was throughout the spring leading up to the draft. That trend has continued — Graceffo has added two more ticks, and has gone from sitting 90-93 mph to sitting 93-97 in less than a year. During that time, he’s also developed a second breaking ball, or at least created better separation between the two he was already working with. His slider is harder than his college version, basically experiencing the same four-tick jump his fastball did. His slider bites hard enough that even when it finishes in the zone, hitters are still swinging inside it. There are times when it looks like a generic cutter and others when it’s a nasty, easily plus pitch, but Graceffo’s feel for locating it to the glove side of the plate is reliable and consistent. He tends to want to dump his slower, more vertically oriented curveball into the top of the zone, while his screwball-style changeup is arguably his best pure pitch, though it’s also the one for which his feel is the least consistent. His fastball shape isn’t great for missing bats (get used to reading that), but Graceffo’s command will help keep it out of trouble. He goes right at hitters with four average-or-better pitches, the imaginary arrow that represents his stuff has consistently been pointing up for the last year, and Graceffo is already on the doorstep of the big leagues. He’s a plug-and-play fourth starter in the José Urquidy mold. 45 FV Prospects 7. Brendan Donovan, 2B Drafted: 8th Round, 2018 from South Alabama (STL) Age 25.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 60/60 30/30 30/35 55/55 45/45 30 Recent rookie graduate Donovan grinds out great at-bats, he is tough to make chase and even more difficult to beat within the strike zone, and his approach and swing are geared for opposite-field spray. He might rack up a few dozen doubles throughout the course of a big league season by slicing pitches down either baseline or by occasionally splitting the center and left fielders, but Donovan’s raw power is skimpy and it’d be surprising if he hit double-digit annual homers; instead, almost all of his offensive output is going to come from his plus bat and on-base skills. While his lack of arm strength should prevent him from seeing extended time at shortstop (and is sometimes a problem when he’s the pivot man on double play attempts), Donovan can basically play all over the rest of the diamond and he’s seen time at all four infield positions and in both outfield corners. While he’s not a spectacular defender at any spot, his versatility on its own is a valuable skill and, in concert with his offensive skill set, is likely to help him crack the lineup on most days as a valuable super-utility type. 40+ FV Prospects 8. Tink Hence, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Watson Chapel HS (AR) (STL) Age 19.9 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 55/60 30/50 35/55 93-96 / 98 Hence has incredible arm speed, he’s a plus on-mound athlete (though his delivery is a little violent) and he’s blowing 94-97 mph fastballs with huge riding life past Low-A hitters right now. As an amateur, Hence presented teams with an exciting vertical fastball/breaking ball foundation, as well as the athleticism and quality fastball strikes to project as a starter. He’s another pitching prospect from this system who enjoyed a healthy post-draft boost in arm strength, though Hence has been deployed for just three innings at a time so far in 2022. One concern from his amateur days was just how slight he was, drawing Triston McKenzie and Deivi García comps from a build and frame standpoint, two guys who have had trouble sustaining apex velo and crisp stuff. It’s fair to say that question hasn’t been answered yet given how light Hence’s workload has been to this point. Evidence of such stamina, more frequent changeup use (mid-90s heat and a good curveball are all you need to pave over a Low-A lineup for three innings at a time) and maybe an eventual second breaking ball are the developmental elements to key on here, as a couple of those things will need to come for Hence to be a mid-rotation stalwart or better. His combination of power and grace generate optimism that stuff will develop. 9. Zack Thompson, SP Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Kentucky (STL) Age 24.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr S / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 45/45 60/60 45/50 30/35 50/55 93-96 / 97 Arguably the most talented college arm in the 2019 draft, Thompson fell (at least in part) because of injury issues speckled throughout his amateur career. After he signed, he was used pretty conservatively in a bullpen role for workload/health reasons, then was sent straight to Triple-A in 2021, where he struggled some with walks. That continued in a more stark, concerning way during his 2021 Fall League run, when Thompson was throwing about as hard as he ever has, but walked nearly a batter per inning. The Cardinals changed his position on the rubber in 2022 and this simple tweak may have remedied things. While Thompson began the year starting at Memphis, he’s made his big league debut deployed mostly in long relief outings. The headline pitch here is Thompson’s picturesque curveball, a deadly, mid-70s parabola much like Liberatore’s. Like Libby, Thompson’s fastball traits don’t fit perfectly with it, and the curveball pops out of his hand in a noticeable way, which impacts hitters’ propensity to chase it. It limits his curveball’s utility, but it’s a great in-zone offering he can use to get ahead of hitters and generate groundballs. Still sitting 93-94 mph, his fastball can get swings and misses up and to the arm side of the plate. There’s a new-ish cutter/slider here, too, and it’s interesting that even though Thompson has elite curveball spin rates, it hasn’t translated to the spin on the cutter/slider at all. He’s barely thrown the pitch in the big leagues even though it was operating at a 14% clip at Memphis; it looks below-average to the eye. There’s no dominant swing-and-miss offering here, no matter how pretty Thompson’s curveball might be. Assuming the recent strike throwing rebound holds, Thompson still projects to be a lower-impact rotation piece with a shot to pop better than that if his feel for spin can be parlayed into a second good breaking ball down the line. 10. Alec Burleson, RF Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from East Carolina (STL) Age 23.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 214 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/55 50/50 30/40 30/30 30/45 50 As the Cardinals are apt to do with their prospects, they pushed Burleson, a former two-way player, to the upper levels very quickly, having him spend most of his first full season at Double-A before a late-season promotion to Memphis, where he began 2022. He has had virtually no issues, slashing .282/.337/.486 so far as a pro, with a whopping .321/.367/.591 line at Triple-A this year. Burleson has above-average raw power and is hitting the ball hard despite utilizing a simple swing, one that becomes even simpler when he has two strikes. He is adept at hitting up-and-in fastballs, though he sometimes strangely inside-outs them to left field, and he also tends to take pitches down and away from him the opposite way, with enough strength to do extra-base damage in that direction. Burleson is a pretty aggressive hitter whose chase rates have historically been in the 37-40% range, which would put him among the top 25 or so swing-happiest qualified big league hitters. It’s a somewhat scary underlying data point for a guy who doesn’t bring a lot to the table on defense, as he’s a tentative corner outfielder with a surprisingly average arm for a former college pitcher. Burleson has absolutely put himself in the short-term big league conversation with his upper-level performance, but there’s still bust risk here and he’s likely a corner platoon bat who’ll compete with Lars Nootbaar (who has better plate discipline, but a swing less optimized for power) for plate appearances against righties once Corey Dickerson’s one-year deal is up. 11. Andre Pallante, MIRP Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from UC Irvine (STL) Age 23.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 203 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Cutter Command Sits/Tops 50/50 60/60 55/55 45/50 93-97 / 98 More of the same Cardinals’ draft elements shine through Pallante, who was young for a college draftee (just 20 on draft day) and had a strong two-year track record of starting at Irvine. Again, we see a pitcher whose fastball shape — in Pallante’s case, some with natural cut and some with two-seam sink — makes it so it doesn’t miss bats even though Pallante throws very hard. He complements the heat with a short, more explicit (as in, obvious) mid-80s cutter/slider, and a very explicit (as in, profane) upper-70s 12-to-6 curveball. It’s a weird collection of pitches that generates a heavy dose of groundballs. From a statistical standpoint, Pallante looks like a lock to start: he’s done nothing but throw strikes as an amateur and pro prospect, and sustains his velocity deep into games. Visually, his delivery looks unlike that of any starter in baseball, almost more like a tennis serve than a pitcher’s mechanics, with some violence about the head and neck. Given how thin St. Louis’ rotation feels due to Jack Flaherty’s stubborn injury issues, it’s more likely Pallante gets continued run in the Cardinals rotation for now (he graduated from rookie eligibility earlier this year). It might be ideal for him to be a multi-inning relief weapon who can come in and throw water on a would-be rally by getting a key groundball, then work another frame from start to finish. Either way, Pallante’s bizarre mix should enable him to have a sizable impact on a pitching staff. 12. Michael McGreevy, SP Drafted: 1st Round, 2021 from UC Santa Barbara (STL) Age 22.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 50/55 45/45 30/50 45/55 91-94 / 95 A converted infielder with a huge frame, McGreevy’s velocity spiked into the mid-90s during the fall of 2020 and for most of ’21 before falling back into the low-90s at the very end of UC Santa Barbara’s season. It’s been down in that area again in 2022. He utilizes a four-pitch mix that’s heavy on sinkers and sliders. Both his slider and curveball have good-looking movement, but they’re easy to identify out of his hand because they come out of very different arm slots. He’s an athletic, young strike-thrower still somewhat new to pitching, but the fact that McGreevy’s velo hasn’t rebounded is a little discouraging. Barely 22, it feels too early to slide him off his pre-draft grade (which had him as more of a second rounder than a first), but McGreevy currently looks more like a generic backend starter than a burgeoning mid-rotation guy. 13. Jonathan Mejia, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 17.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/60 30/45 20/45 55/55 40/55 50 Mejia is a medium-framed, switch-hitting shortstop with advanced feel for contact. He tracks pitches well from both sides of the plate, has a relatively compact swing (his lefty cut is more athletic and powerful right now) and is already pretty strong for a 17-year-old. While we’re not talking about a prospect with huge, overt power projection, Mejia’s feel for contact should enable him to get to whatever raw power he ends up with, and he’s a high-probability long-term shortstop. While a great distance from the big leagues, he’s a potential everyday guy and one of the better prospects signed during the 2022 international period. 40 FV Prospects 14. Juan Yepez, LF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela (ATL) Age 24.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/55 60/60 50/55 40/40 30/30 60 Yepez has long shown big raw power in BP, enough that he was once acquired via trade (from Atlanta for Matt Adams) and was on prospect lists before the power output really began showing up in games. He struggled to stay healthy early in his career and didn’t slug over .400 at any level until 2019, when he broke camp in the Midwest League for the third straight year. The home runs finally began to pile up in 2021, when Yepez suddenly hit 27 combined between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis, mostly at the latter. He then went to the Arizona Fall League, where he faced pitchers who were worse on the average than those he had seen throughout the regular season. He homered seven more times in just 23 games in Arizona, creating some perhaps overzealous buzz. While Yepez easily has plus power, the track record for 1B/DH-only types who strike out as much as he does, especially for the swing-happy reasons he has tended to, isn’t great. Yepez had walked at a 5-6% clip in the low-to-mid minors, but showed a year-over-year increase in 2019 (9% in a 72-game sample) and ’21 (12% in 134 games, including the AFL), and he’s has presented some visual evidence that he’s refined his approach (he’s ditching his leg kick with two strikes). Now in the big leagues (enough that he graduated from rookie status prior to list pub), Yepez has tended to expand the zone. So far in 2022, his chase rates (38% O-Swing) are among the top 25 chasiest in baseball (the big league average is 32%). While all of that is true, his power is huge and Yepez’s feel for contact is actually quite good; when he’s swinging at strikes, he tends to find a way to put the bat on the ball and pull it with power. In addition to developing an actual two-strike approach, Yepez has also slimmed way down even just since the 2021 Fall League, and he’s learning at the wing of Albert Pujols as a big league rookie. These are all reasons for Cardinals fans to hope I’m going to end up being light on Yepez’s projection, and indeed, if he gets regular at-bats, it won’t surprise me if Yepez has several 25-plus homer seasons. But at the 1B/DH end of the defensive spectrum (Yepez has mostly played the outfield corner in the big leagues and hasn’t been good), even amid a big peak year or two, players like this tend to perform close to the 1 annual WAR range as part-time corner role players or low-end options at their position, like Christian Walker, Michael Chavis, and Ryon Healy 힐리. Yepez has better tactile feel to hit than those guys, and maybe the more precise comp is Franmil Reyes. This is a dangerous hitter who I think has a place in a good big league lineup (like the current Cardinals lineup), but I have to factor the approach-related bust risk (and year-to-year volatility) into Yepez’s grade, since that specific trait tends to create highly variable year-to-year performance. 15. Austin Love, SP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2021 from North Carolina (STL) Age 23.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 232 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 55/55 40/50 45/55 92-95 / 98 Love epitomizes some of the draft trends in this org. He does not have a graceful, picturesque delivery. Instead, it is a plodding, heavy-footed affair, and yet Love’s command is good enough for him to be developed as a starter. In fact, his slider command is really good, another thread that runs throughout this system. He is sitting 92-95 mph as a starter and was up to 98 at UNC. He can create sink action on a firm, upper-80s changeup, and while he’s barely thrown that pitch in 2022 (Love is 90% fastballs and sliders as of list publication), it flashed bat-missing action at North Carolina, where he threw it more often. Love has a huge, innings-eating frame, but his delivery is stiffer than the typical major league starter look. He’s a high-probability big leaguer, with the floor of an ultra-consistent middle reliever and a ceiling toward the back of a rotation. 16. Ian Bedell, SP Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from Missouri (STL) Age 22.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 198 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 55/60 40/50 35/60 88-93 / 94 Bedell’s velocity was down during the month-long 2020 college season, which had an impact on his draft stock; he was bumping 95 mph in 2019 but was more 88-92 in February and early March of ’20. Even though he wasn’t throwing as hard, Bedell struck out 35 and walked just four in 24 innings of work because he executes his pitch locations so consistently, especially his curveball, which has above-average depth and plays like a plus pitch because of his command. He needed Tommy John after just two 2021 outings and is about 13 months removed from surgery as of list publication. He’s been throwing in Jupiter but I can’t find anyone who has seen him, just to check on where his arm strength is at this stage. I thought Bedell was a candidate for some mechanical tweaks coming out of Missouri (his delivery was quite cross-bodied and violent), but it’s too early to know if any of that has occurred during the rehab process. Pre-injury Bedell had among the better chances of actually starting in this system and given how St. Louis likes to push guys through the minors quickly, this is a key backfield (and maybe Fall League) evaluation because he will probably be at Double-A and on the big league doorstep quickly if he looks anything like he did at his college prospect peak. 17. Leonardo Bernal, C Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Panama (STL) Age 18.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/50 40/45 20/40 40/40 30/55 55 Bernal is the Cardinals’ top 2021 international signee, a physical, switch-hitting 17-year-old Panamanian catcher. He’s really short to the ball from the left side of the plate and has a good looking swing from both sides. That, combined with his strong chances of staying behind the plate, gives him an everyday ceiling. Teenage catching is notoriously risky, of course, and Bernal’s career is barely underway, as he was only just assigned to Low-A after essentially skipping the GCL. 18. Freddy Pacheco, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (STL) Age 24.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 203 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 70/70 55/60 30/40 94-98 / 99 Pacheco has late-inning stuff, with a fastball that sits 96-98 mph with big riding life and a mid-80s slider that has curveball shape and action. Loose fastball command leads to walks and more in-zone contact against his fastball than is typical of someone who throws this hard, so Pacheco is more likely to find himself in lower-leverage roles initially, with a shot to move into a more substantial one through refined command. 19. Lizandro Espinoza, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Venezuela (STL) Age 19.6 Height 5′ 7″ Weight 158 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/60 30/40 20/35 50/50 40/50 50 Espinoza is a compact, contact-oriented middle infield prospect who is stronger and more muscular than you’d guess by just looking at his measurables. He can shorten up and get on top of high fastballs, while Espinoza’s lower half is flexible enough for him to dip and barrel low pitches. He is not a slam dunk shortstop and lacks the physical projection typical of a teenage prospect, but his middle-of-the-road projection is that of a long-term utility piece, and his hit tool gives him a puncher’s chance to be more than that if it turns out to be plus or better. 20. Malcom Nunez, DH Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Cuba (STL) Age 21.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/55 55/55 45/55 30/20 20/20 55 Nunez became famous back in 2018 when he posted a god-like .415/.497/.774 line with 31 extra-base hits in 44 DSL games. He was bigger and stronger than most of the kids down there, so the industry was ultra-skeptical of that line. He’s continued to hit through the mid-minors and is a .284/.371/.465 career hitter who is performing at that level as a 21-year-old at Double-A. Much like Yepez, except with even less defensive contribution, Nunez has big strength-driven power and precocious feel to hit. He can make in-flight adjustments to breaking stuff and tailor his bat path to match pitch location, with most all of the slugging coming toward the left field gap. Historically, he’s also been a free-swinging sort, but his walk rate in 2022 (15%) has been much better than his career norms (in the 6-9% range in full-season ball) and some of the under-the-hood, more granular metrics, like his swing and chase rates, corroborate improvement in this area. Awkward and uncoordinated at first base, Nunez is a DH-only athlete and it’s possible his lack of athleticism will start to cause an on-field regression earlier than is typical of a pro athlete, but his hit/power combination will likely be sufficient for him to play a bat-only role like Daniel Vogelbach. 21. Joshua Baez, RF Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Dexter Southfield HS (STL) Age 19.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 60/70 25/60 50/40 40/50 55 Baez is a prototypical right field prospect with big present power as well as frame-based projection, a big arm, and strikeouts that threaten to torpedo his profile. Those strikeouts were worse than the industry hoped during his 2021 varsity season, and continued during my in-person looks at the Cardinals during extended spring training. Baez has a long-levered swing that cuts through the middle of the zone. He played both ways as an amateur and is from the Northeast, so it’s possible the feel for contact is still coming, but that demographic of player is also extremely risky. He is a prospect of extreme variance. 22. Packy Naughton, MIRP Drafted: 9th Round, 2017 from Virginia Tech (CIN) Age 26.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/40 45/50 60/60 55/55 87-92 / 94 After falling out with the Peaky Blinders, Naughton turned his attention to the mound. A decimated Angels pitching staff and Naughton’s own velo rebound pushed him all the way from Double-A into Los Angeles’ rotation last summer, where he made five starts. He’s a bit of a throwback, relying on a sinker-changeup combination that works because his three-quarters slot helps the movement on both pitches play up. Ultimately though, the southpaw doesn’t throw hard and neither of his breaking balls generate many whiffs (so much that one of them was scrapped and the other was re-shaped since joining St. Louis). He’s had a two-tick bump (averaging 92 mph now) and projects to pitch in a low-leverage, multi-inning or spot start role as pitchability lefties with good changeups tend to do. 23. Inohan Paniagua, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 22.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 35/40 55/60 40/50 35/60 89-92 / 94 The undersized, athletic Paniagua is leading the org in strikeouts as of list publication, albeit as a 22-year-old at Low-A, a level he is essentially repeating. He only sits 90-92 mph, but Paniagua can vary his fastball’s shape, his low-80s curveball has bat-missing finish and depth, and he repeats a simple, balanced delivery with machine-like precision. While unlikely to ever have an impact fastball, Paniagua has the on-mound athleticism to develop plus command and a better changeup, projecting as a backend starter. 35+ FV Prospects 24. Jake Walsh, SIRP Drafted: 16th Round, 2017 from Florida Southern (STL) Age 26.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 192 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/55 30/35 35/40 94-96 / 98 Walsh has a power middle reliever’s two-pitch mix with his carrying mid-90s fastball and hammer low-80s curveball. His feel for location is quite crude, which most often impacts how Walsh’s curveball finishes and plays, while his fastball’s action gives him in-zone margin for error and is easily his best pitch. Walsh has also had some health issues, most recently elbow soreness that lead to a PRP injection. If he can stay healthy and develop more consistent command, then he’ll stick on the roster as a middle reliever. This FV placement has him more as an up/down guy. 25. Gustavo J. Rodriguez, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Venezuela (STL) Age 21.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 45/50 30/45 20/45 94-96 / 98 He doesn’t have great feel for release consistency, but Rodriguez has arguably the second-best combination of arm strength and frame projection in this system, after Tink Hence. At a broad-shouldered, high-waisted 6-foot-3, Rodriguez is already bumping 97-98 mph as a 21-year old, and is parked in the 94-96 range. His low-80s curveball lacks consistency but flashes bat-missing depth. There’s interesting raw material here, but Rodriguez is a little behind the developmental curve for a college-aged pitcher. 26. Won-Bin Cho, LF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from South Korea (STL) Age 18.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 45/60 25/55 40/40 30/50 50 Cho’s amateur stock blew up at a power-hitting showcase in Texas, and amid some controversy surrounding whether or not he would be eligible for the KBO Draft, he continued to play at some high school showcase events in the U.S., eventually signing with St. Louis. Cho is a big-framed lefty corner outfield prospect with fair feel to hit. He puts on quite a show during BP but is a less polished in games. There were scouts (both here and in Korea) who considered the public estimation of Cho to be inflated by social media highlight culture, but Cho looks like the high schoolers who command about $1 million in the draft and is a good low-level power projection prospect. 27. Ryan Loutos, SIRP Undrafted Free Agent, 2021 (STL) Age 23.4 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 60/60 45/50 60/60 92-95 / 97 Undrafted out of Division-III Washington, Loutos has already reached Double-A and has had success all the way up the ladder thanks mostly to precise, at-the-letters command of his odd-angled mid-90s fastball. Loutos has an over-the-top delivery that creates this angle and action, as well as superficial depth on a curveball that doesn’t really garner many whiffs. He’s quickly put himself in the lower-leverage bullpen mix. 28. Cory Thompson, SIRP Drafted: 5th Round, 2013 from Mauldin HS (SC) (CIN) Age 27.8 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 60/60 40/50 93-95 / 97 A converted shortstop, Thompson was up to at least 94 mph as a two-way player in high school but spent the first half decade of his career as a shortstop in the Reds system before they moved him to the mound. He’s taken a leap in two areas since 2019. One is his velocity (Thompson sat 91 mph in ’19, 94 mph in ’21, and has held in the 94-95 area this season) and the other is via a breakthrough with a screwball action changeup in the upper-80s. Thompson barely threw his changeup in 2021, but it’s easily his best pitch now. He’s out with a vague UCL injury, but he’s an older, late-blooming sleeper reliever, and a very good story. 29. Moisés Gómez, RF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Venezuela (TBR) Age 23.8 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/35 60/60 45/50 40/40 40/40 55 The Aaron Judge of the Pacific Coast League, Gómez hit 23 homers in 60 games at Double-A Springfield before a recent promotion to Memphis. He was an interesting prospect in the 2017-19 window before approach-related issues caused his offensive performance to fall off a cliff while he was a Ray. He signed with St. Louis as a minor league free agent and slugged a ridiculous .705 with Springfield even though he has swung and missed more often than he’s put balls in play. Make no mistake, Gómez will punish you for yours. Hanging breaking balls and piped fastballs are not safe, and Gómez has so much power that he doesn’t even need to make flush contact to put balls out to any field. He still takes overzealous at-bats and has a ton of in-zone swing-and-miss, especially versus in-zone fastballs against which Gómez tends to be late. It’s fun that he was on pace for 50 Double-A bombs, but it doesn’t feel like Gómez would be able to sustain anything close to that after he gets a two-level bump to the big leagues. Still, there might be enough playable power for a very limited corner role or to consider Gómez an above-replacement depth option because his power is so explosive. 30. Chandler Redmond, 1B Drafted: 32th Round, 2019 from Gardner-Webb (STL) Age 25.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 231 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/20 70/70 50/55 30/30 30/30 40 Redmond is a former 32nd round senior sign out of Gardner Webb who owns a .261/.357/.487 career line in pro ball. His peak exit velos in 2021 were in the same ballpark as those of Jordan Walker and Nolan Gorman, and his 30% barrel rate comfortably led the entire system, but Redmond also struck out roughly a third of the time as an old-for-the-level player. While his strikeout rate in 2022 was a very manageable 20% early on, there was no obvious mechanical or approach change to support that shift being sustainable and it’s back up close to 30% as of list publication. Though they’ve tried him at several other positions in the past, including second base, the Cardinals have deployed the 230-pound Redmond exclusively at first base and DH so far this season. There have been 1B/DH types who strike out about a third of the time, hit about .210 and reach base at about a .300 clip, but hit for enough power to be Lucas Duda or Brandon Moss, or even post some of the middle-of-the-road Chris Davis years. More likely, though, Redmond is in a Quad-A limbo and is possibly a candidate for pro ball abroad. 31. Nathanael Heredia, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 21.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 55/55 50/55 30/40 93-95 / 96 A funky lefty with a low arm slot, Heredia sits 94-95 mph with tailing action and has a sweeping slider in the low-80s that lives more off his funk and arm slot than it does its own nastiness. He has a lefty-specialist look but also has much worse command than is typical for that sort of reliever. 32. Edwin Nunez, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 20.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 55/70 45/55 20/35 92-96 / 99 Nunez, who signed for just north of $500,000 after he was suspended for a year due to an age discrepancy, has an explosive mid-90s fastball and has been up to 101 mph, but he has very little idea where it’s going and his command has regressed along with his conditioning. Purely an arm strength flier at this stage, there’s big relief stuff here but low big league probability unless Nunez finds mechanical consistency. 33. Randel Clemente, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (STL) Age 20.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 173 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops 50/60 45/55 30/40 94-97 / 98 Another young righty with a Division-I QB’s frame and a huge arm, Clemente will show you 94-97 mph and can really spin it. He is just an arm strength flier at this stage and needs both breaking ball and command refinement to even profile as a reliever. 34. Alec Willis, SP Drafted: 7th Round, 2021 from Regis Jesuit HS (CO) (STL) Age 19.3 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/50 45/55 30/50 20/50 89-93 / 94 Willis is an XXL high school prospect with a much more consistent delivery than most 6-foot-7 prepsters. He sits in the low-90s and has solid curveball feel, projecting as an innings-eating fourth starter. There was a point when Willis was sitting 82-85 mph as an amateur, then came back from ulnar nerve decompression surgery peaking in the mid-90s. He’s currently dealing with an arm issue and hasn’t pitched in 2022, making him a deep projection prospect. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. Depth Starters Connor Thomas, LHP Logan Gragg, RHP Thomas Parsons, RHP Thomas is a small, pitchability lefty with four offerings that live off his command, though some pitch metrics like his slider. Gragg, 23, is a 6-foot-5 kitchen sink righty who throws a ton of strikes with five vanilla pitches. He’s still in A-ball, but he could be a two-seam/cutter bulk reliever, if not a spot starter. Parsons, 26, is similar except he’s already at Triple-A. Bench Role Ceilings Conner Capel, OF Nick Dunn, 2B Osvaldo Tovalin, 3B Delvin Pérez, SS Jeremy Rivas, SS Ryan Holgate, LF Luken Baker, 1B Capel is a well-rounded 25-year-old outfielder with above-average bat control and a weird swing. He’s a great upper-level injury replacement type. Dunn, 25, is like a free-swinging Brendan Donovan — same hair and everything. He has good feel for contact but not as good of an approach, and that’s enough to put him on the fringe rather than firmly in the big league mix. Tovalin, 22, is a physical, lefty-hitting infielder with a short swing and doubles power. He’s now at Peoria after clubbing Low-A. Pérez is a capable shortstop defender and a well-rounded defensive infielder who can’t really hit. Rivas, 19, is another light-hitting, glove-first type who is currently in A-ball. Holgate had a good college career at Arizona but has struggled to hit and dealt with injury in pro ball. Baker has stopped hitting after pelting 26 bombs last year, albeit as a 24-year-old in Double-A. Deep Projection Yordalin Pena, RF Carlos Linarez, C Pena, who signed in January, has arguably the most overt physical projection of that entire group and might come into big power. Linarez, 20, is an advanced defensive catcher with an above-average arm and good timing at the plate. Relief Depth Andre Granillo, RHP Griffin Roberts, RHP Johan Quezada, RHP Granillo, a husky closer from UC Riverside, sits 93-95 mph with an above-average slider and 30-grade control. Roberts is rehabbing in the lower levels right now, sitting 90-92 and throwing his trademark breaking ball most of the time. He once looked like a slider monster reliever, but he needs to prove it at this point. Quezada has hopped around to a few orgs now and is still impossible to miss because he’s 6-foot-9 and throws 98 mph with little idea where it’s going. System Overview The Cardinals do not mess around. They push the prospects they think are good up the minor league ladder quickly, testing them and integrating them into the big league roster without worrying about service time optimization and manipulation. As such, we have a better idea of who’s a dude and who isn’t pretty quickly, which is part of why this system has little in the way of amorphous profiles or Schrödinger’s Prospects in a “maybe” area. The boom-or-bust high schoolers the Cardinals have found a way to get a little later in the draft have a mixed track record, but it feels like it’s worth it to have used a pick on Tre Fletcher (the only sign I saw of Fletcher on the complex in Jupiter was his sweet matte black car) if the process that landed him is the same one that leads you to Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn, who look like impact players. I mention in some of the blurbs that St. Louis has a penchant for taking pitchers who have ugly deliveries, but who throw hard (and if not, the org tends to make them throw harder), often work with sink and tail more than rise, and command their breaking balls. That type of guy is all over their big league roster, with Dakota Hudson, Ryan Helsley, Jordan Hicks, and Pallante all applicable examples. Internationally, St. Louis tends to have a balanced approach. They commit some money at around the same time other teams do, then hold a portion of their pool in reserve for later in the process, which they use to come to agreements with slightly older pitchers who have had a velocity spike (Edwin Nunez and Randel Clemente are examples here), or players who are hitting the market late for whatever reason (as was the case with Cho). With Graceffo moving into the 50 FV tier, the Cardinals are now tied with several teams for the third-most Top 100-caliber prospects in a single system, with six; their cohort trails only the Guardians and Rays, who each have seven. It’s a top-heavy system with slightly below-average depth due more to graduations than anything else. Elehuris Montero is the only prospect on The Board who originally signed with St. Louis but is now a prospect for another team.